Example #4 Art and Hospitality

What if students could learn respect through art?

Jack wanted to introduce his class to some African Christian art but was aware that the unusual style and cultural differences could lead to his pupils/students understanding very little. To understand this painting they would need to come with an attitude of humility and respect.

“I decided to use the artwork He is the Reason we are Dancing by Chide Okaye (http://www.modernartimages.com/expressionsofdance2.htm) from Nigeria. I explained that we have a visitor from another country coming to speak to us. We shared how we would welcome our visitor and show them respect. I explained that the visitor came from Nigeria and we pooled what we knew about Nigeria. I showed them some images on the smart board. As our visitor came from Nigeria some things would be different from what we were used to and some the same. Together we worked out guidelines about how we would respond:

  • We will not make up our minds before we have listened carefully
  • If something seems odd to us we will not quickly assume it's foolish or inferior
  • We will expect differences and similarities and will work hard at understanding
  • It is all right to ask questions about things that are unusual or different
  • We will expect to learn new things from this visitor

“I showed the painting, being careful with my own body language as I unveiled it. I introduced it as our visitor from Nigeria. This caused a bit of a stir but then they settled down. We thought about how we would adapt our welcome and how we would show respect to a painting. We used our guidelines as we explored the painting.”

What’s going on here?

Jack saw his art class as a way of encouraging humility, respect and attentiveness and seeing art as a personal encounter. He saw the introduction of a new painting as a chance to practise hospitality to strangers.

He engaged students in reflecting on their own responses when relating to a foreign visitor before being asked to respond. He explicitly invited his students to engage in morally committed ways with the painting, and made it a 'learning from' encounter, not just 'learning about'.

Jack reshaped his practice by drawing on faith sources (a Christian painting), and adjusting his own body language and his choice of framing questions and images.

How do I do this myself? (Primary) How do I do this myself? (Secondary)

What does this have to do with faith, hope and love?

Respect and humility are aspects of love. Humility is essential if we are to learn from others. Humility is not grovelling self-abasement but it is the opposite of pride and arrogance that thinks we have nothing to learn from other cultures. True humility is a generous attitude of mind that values others and what they have made, and sees oneself realistically. Jesus modelled humility throughout his life. Hospitality to strangers is an important expression of love when we meet those who are different from ourselves.

What difference does it make?

Jack made art a personal encounter rather than an analytical exercise. Analytical skills are necessary and students need to learn them but they are skills that enable a deeper encounter to take place. His choice of framing questions for the encounter with the art work helped students to reflect on the virtues needed for 'learning from' at the same time as engaging with artistic questions.

Where could we go from here?

This approach to reframing students' encounters with culturally different resources could be applied, for instance, to poems, films, narratives from historical figures, as well as, of course, actual visitors. Teachers could consider what other virtues might be brought into play when interacting with material, and what change in attitude might be needed. Modelling from the teacher is an important component.

Digging deeper

The term for respect in biblical Hebrew means 'to bow down'. Respect and honour were shown by a physical position. We do not have the elaborate courtesies of some other cultures but we can still explore with students how we show respect today. One of the ways in which we show respect is not jumping to judgement but taking time to consider what another person is saying.

Hasty conclusions are the mark of a fool; a wise man doubteth; a fool rageth and is confident; the novice saith, "I am sure that it is so"; the better learned answers, "Peradventure, it may be so; but, I pray thee, inquire." Jeremy Taylor

The Bible locates human worth in being God-made and mattering to God. Because of this, people do not have to wait to earn our respect. Respect is our basic response and all deserve to be treated with dignity as God’s children (1 Peter 2:13-17). Jesus said that what we do to others he treats as if it was done to himself (Matthew 25:40). The Bible explicitly includes those who are foreign to us, emphasising that strangers are to be treated with hospitality and care (Hebrews 13:2).

We can respect people’s creativity, thinking, and achievements without ignoring their flaws. Giving respect to what people have made is a way of paying respect to the person.

Learning from others involves humility. In Philippians 2:3 Paul calls on Christians to, ‘in humility regard others as better than yourselves’. This is not a call to pretend; it is a call for generosity of spirit. Generosity of spirit is what this lesson required of teacher and students. The New Testament talks of being teachable (James 1:21) and it is humility that makes people teachable. For this reason St Augustine when asked what he thought were the three greatest virtues replied, "Humility, humility, and then humility."

The model of humility is Christ himself who gave up equality with God to become one of us. (Philippians 2:5-11).

Explore similar examples:

What if a language class were about hospitality to strangers?
What if students could learn love and self-control through writing?
What if music helped children to show respect?

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1Stop being hateful! Stop trying to fool people, and start being sincere. Don't be jealous or say cruel things about others. 2Be like newborn babies who are thirsty for the pure spiritual milk that will help you grow and be saved. 3You have already found out how good the Lord really is. 4Come to Jesus Christ. He is the living stone that people have rejected, but which God has chosen and highly honoured. 5And now you are living stones that are being used to build a spiritual house. You are also a group of holy priests, and with the help of Jesus Christ you will offer sacrifices that please God. 6It is just as God says in the Scriptures, Look! I am placing in Zion a choice and precious cornerstone. No one who has faith in that one will be disappointed. 7You are followers of the Lord, and that stone is precious to you. But it isn't precious to those who refuse to follow him. They are the builders who tossed aside the stone that turned out to be the most important one of all. 8They disobeyed the message and stumbled and fell over that stone, because they were doomed. 9But you are God's chosen and special people. You are a group of royal priests and a holy nation. God has brought you out of darkness into his marvellous light. Now you must tell all the wonderful things that he has done. The Scriptures say, 10Once you were nobody. Now you are God's people. At one time no one had pity on you. Now God has treated you with kindness. Live as God's servants should 11Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you. 12Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honour God by telling the good things they saw you do. 13The Lord wants you to obey all human authorities, especially the Emperor, who rules over everyone. 14You must also obey governors, because they are sent by the Emperor to punish criminals and to praise good citizens. 15God wants you to silence stupid and ignorant people by doing right. 16You are free, but still you are God's servants, and you must not use your freedom as an excuse for doing wrong. 17Respect everyone and show special love for God's people. Honour God and respect the Emperor. 18Servants, you must obey your masters and always show respect to them. Do this, not only to those who are kind and thoughtful, but also to those who are cruel. 19God will bless you, even if others treat you unfairly for being loyal to him. 20You don't gain anything by being punished for some wrong you have done. But God will bless you, if you have to suffer for doing something good. 21After all, God chose you to suffer as you follow in the footsteps of Christ, who set an example by suffering for you. 22Christ did not sin or ever tell a lie. 23Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly. 24Christ carried the burden of our sins. He was nailed to the cross, so that we would stop sinning and start living right. By his cuts and bruises you are healed. 25You had wandered away like sheep. Now you have returned to the one who is your shepherd and protector. Wives and husbands
1The kingdom of heaven is like what happened one night when ten girls took their oil lamps and went to a wedding to meet the groom. 2Five of the girls were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps, but no extra oil. 4The ones who were wise took along extra oil for their lamps. 5The groom was late arriving, and the girls became drowsy and fell asleep. 6Then in the middle of the night someone shouted, Here's the groom! Come to meet him! 7When the girls got up and started getting their lamps ready, 8the foolish ones said to the others, Let us have some of your oil! Our lamps are going out. 9The girls who were wise answered, There's not enough oil for all of us! Go and buy some for yourselves. 10While the foolish girls were on their way to get some oil, the groom arrived. The girls who were ready went into the wedding, and the doors were closed. 11Later the other girls returned and shouted, Sir, sir! Open the door for us! 12But the groom replied, I don't even know you! 13So, my disciples, always be ready! You don't know the day or the time when all this will happen. A story about three servants (Luke 19.11-27) Jesus continued: 14The kingdom is also like what happened when a man went away and put his three servants in charge of all he owned. 15The man knew what each servant could do. So he handed five thousand coins to the first servant, two thousand to the second, and one thousand to the third. Then he left the country. 16As soon as the man had gone, the servant with the five thousand coins used them to earn five thousand more. 17The servant who had two thousand coins did the same with his money and earned two thousand more. 18But the servant with one thousand coins dug a hole and hid his master's money in the ground. 19Some time later the master of those servants returned. He called them in and asked what they had done with his money. 20The servant who had been given five thousand coins brought them in with the five thousand that he had earned. He said, Sir, you gave me five thousand coins, and I have earned five thousand more. 21Wonderful! his master replied. You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness! 22Next, the servant who had been given two thousand coins came in and said, Sir, you gave me two thousand coins, and I have earned two thousand more. 23Wonderful! his master replied. You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness! 24The servant who had been given one thousand coins then came in and said, Sir, I know that you are hard to get along with. You harvest what you don't plant and gather crops where you haven't scattered seed. 25I was frightened and went out and hid your money in the ground. Here is every single coin! 26The master of the servant told him, You are lazy and good-for-nothing! You know that I harvest what I don't plant and gather crops where I haven't scattered seed. 27You could have at least put my money in the bank, so that I could have earned interest on it. 28Then the master said, Now your money will be taken away and given to the servant with ten thousand coins! 29Everyone who has something will be given more, and they will have more than enough. But everything will be taken from those who don't have anything. 30You are a worthless servant, and you will be thrown out into the dark where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. The final judgment Jesus continued: 31When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. 32The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats. 33He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34Then the king will say to those on his right, My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. 35When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, 36and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me. 37Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, When did we give you something to eat or drink? 38When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear 39or visit you while you were sick or in jail? 40The king will answer, Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me. 41Then the king will say to those on his left, Get away from me! You are under God's curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! 42I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. 43I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me. 44Then the people will ask, Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail? 45The king will say to them, Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me. 46Then Jesus said, Those people will be punished for ever. But the ones who pleased God will have eternal life. The plot to kill Jesus (Mark 14.1,2; Luke 22.1,2; John 11.45-53)
1Keep being concerned about each other as the Lord's followers should. 2Be sure to welcome strangers into your home. By doing this, some people have welcomed angels as guests, without even knowing it. 3Remember the Lord's people who are in jail and be concerned for them. Don't forget those who are suffering, but imagine that you are there with them. 4Have respect for marriage. Always be faithful to your partner, because God will punish anyone who is immoral or unfaithful in marriage. 5Don't fall in love with money. Be satisfied with what you have. The Lord has promised that he will not leave us or desert us. 6That should make you feel like saying, The Lord helps me! Why should I be afraid of what people can do to me? 7Don't forget about your leaders who taught you God's message. Remember what kind of lives they lived and try to have faith like theirs. 8Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. 9Don't be fooled by any kind of strange teachings. It is better to receive strength from God's undeserved kindness than to depend on certain foods. After all, these foods don't really help the people who eat them. 10But we have an altar where even the priests who serve in the place of worship have no right to eat. 11After the high priest offers the blood of animals as a sin offering, the bodies of those animals are burnt outside the camp. 12Jesus himself suffered outside the city gate, so that his blood would make people holy. 13That's why we should go outside the camp to Jesus and share in his disgrace. 14On this earth we don't have a city that lasts for ever, but we are waiting for such a city. 15Our sacrifice is to keep offering praise to God in the name of Jesus. 16But don't forget to help others and to share your possessions with them. This too is like offering a sacrifice that pleases God. 17Obey your leaders and do what they say. They are watching over you, and they must answer to God. So don't make them sad as they do their work. Make them happy. Otherwise, they won't be able to help you at all. 18Pray for us. Our consciences are clear, and we always try to live right. 19I especially want you to pray that I can visit you again soon. 20God gives peace, and he raised our Lord Jesus Christ from death. Now Jesus is like a Great Shepherd whose blood was used to make God's eternal agreement with his flock. 21I pray that God will make you ready to obey him and that you will always be eager to do right. May Jesus help you do what pleases God. To Jesus Christ be glory for ever and ever! Amen. 22My friends, I have written only a short letter to encourage you, and I beg you to pay close attention to what I have said. 23By now you must know that our friend Timothy is out of jail. If he gets here in time, I will bring him with me when I come to visit you. 24Please give my greetings to your leaders and to the rest of the Lord's people. His followers from Italy send you their greetings. 25I pray that God will be kind to all of you!
1Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. 3Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. 9Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others. 10So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. 11And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, Jesus Christ is Lord! Lights in the world 12My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Then on the day when Christ returns, I can take pride in you. I can also know that my work and efforts were not useless. 17Your faith in the Lord and your service are like a sacrifice offered to him. And my own blood may have to be poured out with the sacrifice. If this happens, I will be glad and rejoice with you. 18In the same way, you should be glad and rejoice with me. Timothy and Epaphroditus 19I want to be encouraged by news about you. So I hope the Lord Jesus will soon let me send Timothy to you. 20I don't have anyone else who cares about you as much as he does. 21The others think only about what interests them and not about what concerns Christ Jesus. 22But you know what kind of person Timothy is. He has worked with me like a son in spreading the good news. 23I hope to send him to you, as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me. 24And I feel sure that the Lord will also let me come soon. 25I think I ought to send my dear friend Epaphroditus back to you. He is a follower and a worker and a soldier of the Lord, just as I am. You sent him to look after me, 26but now he is eager to see you. He is worried, because you heard he was sick. 27In fact, he was very sick and almost died. But God was kind to him, and also to me, and he kept me from being burdened down with sorrow. 28Now I am more eager than ever to send Epaphroditus back again. You will be glad to see him, and I won't have to worry any longer. 29Be sure to give him a cheerful welcome, just as people who serve the Lord deserve. 30He almost died working for Christ, and he risked his own life to do for me what you could not.
1From James, a servant of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes scattered all over the world. 2My friends, be glad, even if you have a lot of trouble. 3You know that you learn to endure by having your faith tested. 4But you must learn to endure everything, so that you will be completely mature and not lacking in anything. 5If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won't correct you for asking. 6But when you ask for something, you must have faith and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like an ocean wave tossed around in a storm. 7If you are that kind of person, you can't make up your mind, and you can't be trusted. So don't expect the Lord to give you anything at all. Poor people and rich people 9Any of God's people who are poor should be glad that he thinks so highly of them. 10But any who are rich should be glad when God makes them humble. Rich people will disappear like wild flowers 11scorched by the burning heat of the sun. The flowers lose their blossoms, and their beauty is destroyed. That is how the rich will disappear, as they go about their business. Trials and temptations 12God will bless you, if you don't give up when your faith is being tested. He will reward you with a glorious life, just as he rewards everyone who loves him. 13Don't blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn't use evil to tempt others. 14We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. 15Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead. 16Don't be fooled, my dear friends. 17Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing. 18He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth. 19My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry. 20If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things that God wants done. 21You must stop doing anything immoral or evil. Instead be humble and accept the message that is planted in you to save you. 22Obey God's message! Don't fool yourselves by just listening to it. 23If you hear the message and don't obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror 24and forget what they look like as soon as they leave. 25But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don't just hear and forget. 26If you think you are being religious, but can't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and everything you do is useless. 27Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil. Warning against having favourites
1Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. 3Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. 7Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. 8Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. 9Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others. 10So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. 11And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, Jesus Christ is Lord! Lights in the world 12My dear friends, you always obeyed when I was with you. Now that I am away, you should obey even more. So work with fear and trembling to discover what it really means to be saved. 13God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. 14Do everything without grumbling or arguing. 15Then you will be the pure and innocent children of God. You live among people who are crooked and evil, but you must not do anything that they can say is wrong. Try to shine as lights among the people of this world, 16as you hold firmly to the message that gives life. Then on the day when Christ returns, I can take pride in you. I can also know that my work and efforts were not useless. 17Your faith in the Lord and your service are like a sacrifice offered to him. And my own blood may have to be poured out with the sacrifice. If this happens, I will be glad and rejoice with you. 18In the same way, you should be glad and rejoice with me. Timothy and Epaphroditus 19I want to be encouraged by news about you. So I hope the Lord Jesus will soon let me send Timothy to you. 20I don't have anyone else who cares about you as much as he does. 21The others think only about what interests them and not about what concerns Christ Jesus. 22But you know what kind of person Timothy is. He has worked with me like a son in spreading the good news. 23I hope to send him to you, as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me. 24And I feel sure that the Lord will also let me come soon. 25I think I ought to send my dear friend Epaphroditus back to you. He is a follower and a worker and a soldier of the Lord, just as I am. You sent him to look after me, 26but now he is eager to see you. He is worried, because you heard he was sick. 27In fact, he was very sick and almost died. But God was kind to him, and also to me, and he kept me from being burdened down with sorrow. 28Now I am more eager than ever to send Epaphroditus back again. You will be glad to see him, and I won't have to worry any longer. 29Be sure to give him a cheerful welcome, just as people who serve the Lord deserve. 30He almost died working for Christ, and he risked his own life to do for me what you could not.